If you have seen or read The Martian, you may recall the stranded astronaut converting a hydrogen-based fuel into water. Well, we may have just discovered material that easily reverses this process. Researchers at the US Army Aberdeen Proving Ground Research Laboratory were developing a high-strength aluminium alloy when they made a startling discovery.
During routine testing of the alloy, water poured over its surface started bubbling and producing hydrogen gas. This is an unusual reaction – typically, aluminium exposed to water oxidises, creating a protective barrier to prevent further reactions from occurring. In this case, though, the hydrogen-producing reaction just kept going, signaling the possibility of a portable, affordable source of hydrogen for fuel cells and other energy applications.
This serendipitous discovery, announced in July, has the potential to reinvigorate the hydrogen fuel industry. aluminium that could react with water in a sustainable way would be able to produce hydrogen on demand. This would make hydrogen fuel cells much easier to use since there would be no need to pressurise and transport hydrogen gas for use. Instead, simple, stable tanks of water and pieces of aluminium would be all you’d need.
Previous attempts to drive the aluminium/water reaction required catalysts or high temperatures, and they were slow. Ultimately, they were only about 50 percent efficient, and obtaining the hydrogen took hours.In contrast, the method that uses this new alloy takes less than three minutes to achieve almost 100 percent efficiency. Source: Hydrogen Fuel Could Become a Viable Energy Alternative Thanks to This Aluminium Alloy